The Mezzanine

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Opening on an escalator and closing on the same escalator, Nicholson Baker takes us on a joyride tour of the things that really matter : details. How can it be that the shoelaces of both his workshoes brake at just a few days interval when he has been wearing the shoes for several months ? In fact, the wonder is two-tiered :
1) how reassuring it is that they broke so amazingly close to one another ;
2) why didn’t they break at the same time ?
What forces are involved in shoe-lace wear which would have that particular shoe-lace break before the other ? What a shame that he hasn’t kept a detailed record of the number of times he has had to redo each of them, so as to determine the ratio of walking-wear to tying-wear.
But The Mezzanine is not just such a collection of scientific concerns. Wonder, delight and frustration are the driving forces behind this narrative. The wonder of those square cartons of milk that open by pushing the flaps back then forward, an operation which so few people seem to master, more often than not tearing the thing apart in blatant and somewhat puzzling diregard for the "Open here" note on the carton. Delight at the little noise and sensation of these bendable plastic straws whose accordeon elbow sounds and feels just like the joints of the fingers after they have been motionless for a long time. Frustration at these small and straight plastic straws that fail to remain standing on the bottom of your glass of soda, float to the surface and assume a horizontal position, thus defeating the whole purpose of straws.
Not merely concerned with objects, The Mezzanine also analyses the intimate and daily workings of the mind, the way it constantly processes thoughts from the trivial to the grandiose and how it’s mostly hard at work on the trivial.
It digresses, associates and wanders, in just the manner of the extensive footnotes that really constitute the bulk of The Mezzanine.
As one progresses through the novel, one feels increasingly familiar and finds refuge in the quaint wooly warmth (1) of this cocoon that Nicholson Baker weaves for us out of the fabric of everyday life, which he manages to raise to litteray heights.
Reading The Mezzanine comes astonishingly close to listening to music : the music of life ?

(1) It’s odd to be reading a novel in the underground, at a café terrace, in bed, and feel like one is floating above the world, with nothing to do but to look at and think about everything our gaze happens onto.

Vincent Henderson